M.A. Program

The program offers students a considerable degree of flexibility to craft a course of study based upon their own interests. They can select courses from a number of departments, work with faculty from the regular, core affiliate, or affiliate faculty, and choose to write a thesis or a scholarly article. The M.A. degree program attracts students who have just completed their bachelors’ degrees as well as mid-career professionals. Our students are interested in or already pursuing careers in print or broadcast media; museums, archaeology, historic preservation, or cultural resource management; public history; secondary school teaching; and advocacy or policy work on social justice issues. Many of our students also go on to Ph.D. programs at other universities.

The Master of Arts program in American Studies is a terminal degree program. Students holding B.A. degrees who wish to obtain a Ph.D. from the Department of American Studies at the University of Maryland should apply directly to the Ph.D. program.


Applicants to the M.A. program should have a broad liberal arts background appropriate to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and society at the graduate level. In addition to three letters of recommendation and official transcripts of all undergraduate work, applicants are asked to submit a statement of purpose and/or an autobiographic statement, a writing sample, and results of the Graduate Record Examination.


Students in the M.A. program are required to complete a minimum of 30 hours of course work in American Studies and related disciplines and to demonstrate the ability to conduct independent research by submitting an acceptable thesis or a scholarly article.

At least 21 hours of course work must be taken at the 600 level or above. No more than 9 credit hours of course work may be taken at the 400-level. In consultation with a faculty advisor, students develop individual programs of study within the following guidelines.

1) Pro seminars: (6 hrs.)

AMST 601: Introductory Seminar in American Studies (3 hours)* plus a second methodology or historiography course in their area of concentration. The second pro seminar must be taken outside of the department. Students usually choose from one of the following:

  • AMST 639A or B: Decorative Arts in America Civilization (Students in material culture or historical archaeology may substitute HISP 678: Fieldwork in Historic Preservation, HISP 679: Measured Drawings for Historic Preservation, ANTH 611: Management and Cultural Process, ANTH689R: Method and Theory in Archaeology, URSP 605: Planning History and Theory)
  • ANTH 606: Methods of Cultural Analysis I
  • CMLT 600: Introduction to Critical Theory
  • COMM 711: Historical/Critical Methods in Communication Research
  • ENGL 601: Bibliography and Methods
  • ENGL602: Critical Theory and Literary Criticism
  • GVPT 700: Scope and Methods of Political Science
  • HIST 600: Historiography
  • HIST602: General Seminar: American History
  • JOUR 600: Research Methods in Mass Communication
  • SOCY 621: Contemporary Sociological Theory
  • WMST 601: Advanced Feminist Theory
  • WMST 602: Advanced Feminist Theory II

*Note: Students are expected to register for AMST 601 in their first semester of residence.

2) American Studies seminars: (9 hrs.)

9 semester hours chosen from special topic seminars AMST 628 and AMST 629, or other AMST proseminars or research seminars taught on campus by AMST regular department faculty. This includes AMST 602, 603, 630 (Popular Culture), and 650 (formerly AMST 628Q), AMST 801 and 851 (formerly AMST 629L). Students may on rare occasions and with their advisor’s consent petition the Director of Graduate Studies to use one course taught by an affiliate faculty member that is cross-listed under AMST 628 or 629 in partial fulfillment of this requirement.

3) Area of Concentration: (9-15 hrs.)

9 semester hours (thesis option) or 15 semester hours (scholarly article option). In consultation with their faculty advisor, students develop an area of concentration. Some students elect to fulfill this requirement by selecting courses in a particular discipline (e.g. American history, American literature, Sociology, Government and Politics). Others develop topical or thematic areas of concentration. (e.g. Popular Culture, Women’s Studies, Material Culture, Ethnography, or African American Studies) that bring together appropriately chosen courses from two or more disciplines. In either case, it is essential that the area of concentration be defined clearly and coherently.

Research Requirement

The research requirement for the M.A. may be met by electing the thesis or scholarly article option.

Thesis Option. Students who write a thesis take 24 credit hours of course work (8 courses) and 6 credit hours of AMST 799: Thesis Research toward the 30 hours required for the degree. Students wishing to write a thesis are urged to identify a topic as early as possible and to discuss it with appropriate faculty members. Preliminary to undertaking their research, students prepare a brief formal thesis proposal for presentation before their committee. The thesis committee consists of three persons, at a minimum. The chair of the committee may be a member of the regular, core affiliate, or affiliate faculties. The other two members may be American Studies faculty or faculty from disciplines appropriate to the thesis topic. Students may also select a committee member from another institution, but this requires approval from the Office of Graduate Studies and Research. Printed guidelines for the thesis proposal are available in the department office. Further information concerning style, requirements, and schedule deadlines can be found in the Graduate School Catalog and Thesis Manual. Upon completion of the thesis, students are given an oral examination by their committee.

Scholarly Article Option. Students who elect the scholarly article option complete 30 hours of course work (10 courses) and submit a scholarly article, based on independent research, in lieu of a thesis. The article, normally 25 to 45 pages in length, may be a revised seminar paper, but it must be written independently, in excess of course requirements, and under the direction of two faculty readers. Scholarly articles should be framed to address larger issues in the appropriate bodies of scholarly literature and contain substantial bibliographies. They should achieve publishable quality and should be written to conform to the standards of a specified refereed scholarly journal. As soon as a student begins working on the scholarly article, he or she should designate the two faculty readers and commence research and/or revision in consultation with both readers. The scholarly article is usually submitted in the final semester of the student’s program.

Progress Toward the Degree

Students are expected to make steady progress on their degree programs. The time needed, of course, will depend on whether the student is able to study full-time or only part-time. To insure that students proceed at a pace appropriate to their full-time or part-time status, the faculty meets late each spring semester to conduct a review of all students in the graduate program. Prior to that review, students submit a brief statement describing their progress during that academic year, a plan for the next year’s work, and an up-to-date curriculum vitae. These statements will play a role in the granting and renewing of Departmental assistantships as well as in faculty decisions to support requests for extensions of time limits for the degree.

Students must be continuously registered for at least one credit of AMST 798: Non-Thesis Research or AMST 799: Master’s Thesis Research while completing their scholarly article or thesis, respectively.

Before a completed thesis can be formally approved, the candidate must successfully defend it in an oral examination before the thesis committee. Reading copies of the thesis must be distributed to members of the committee at least ten working days prior to the oral examination and must conform to the University requirements set forth in the Thesis Manual. Two copies of the completed thesis are submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies and one to the American Studies Department for its records.

Procedures for Graduation

No later than the first week of their final semester, students should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies about the forms to be filed with the Office of Graduate Studies and Research in order to receive their degrees. These forms are available online HERE .  Please refer to the Graduate School for current rules and regulations regarding the Thesis Manual and graduation requirements (http://www.gradschool.umd.edu/current_students/deadlines_for_graduate_students.html).